When the first missionaries came to Alberta, Canada, they were savagely opposed by a young chief of the Cree Indians named Maskepetoon. But he responded to the gospel and accepted Christ. Shortly afterward, a member of the Blackfoot tribe killed his father. Maskepetoon rode into the village where the murderer lived and demanded that he be brought before him. Confronting the guilty man, he said, “You have killed my father, so now you must be my father. You shall ride my best horse and wear my best clothes.” In utter amazement and remorse his enemy exclaimed, “My son, now you have killed me!” He meant, of course, that the hate in his own heart had been completely erased by the forgiveness and kindness of the Indian chief.
In the short book of Philemon there is a huge example of a desire for forgiveness that causes me to think about how much Paul really knew the true essence of the word, forgiveness. Basically a man by the name of Onesimus, a slave of Philemon, had stolen from his master and fled. He eventually made his way to Rome where he crossed paths with the Apostle Paul, who led him to faith in Christ. The forgiveness and life change Christ did in Onesimus was complete and known by Paul, so Paul wrote to Philemon on behalf of Onesimus. The letter Paul wrote to Philemon is recorded in God’s Word and sandwiched in between the books of Titus and Hebrews. Such a small part of the Bible, but such a great truth that reveals the essence of our forgiveness and sets an example of what our attitude should be in the area of forgiveness. In the letter Paul’s approach was to praise Philemon for his great love and faith in verse 5 and then make his plea to Philemon on behalf of Onesimus. In verse 8 Paul stated that he was confident in the forgiveness that Philemon had experienced in Christ. He knew that he would not have to demand he forgive him, but just appeal to him to forgive him. In verse 9 Paul stated he did this for love’s sake. Paul in those three words, “for love’s sake” drove home the point in Christ-like fashion to Philemon and to us. Keep in mind that this letter was written by Paul while in prison for preaching about the very forgiveness he was exhibiting. Paul knew that the chains and prison walls that confined him physically could never contain the great forgiveness he had received from Jesus and his appeal to Philemon was very heartfelt and real. Paul in verse 17 said, “If then you regard me a partner, accept him as you would me.” Paul even pledged to pay back anything Onesimus owed Philemon as a way of letting him know he was very serious about the young man’s change in life. Paul’s example of going the extra mile for Onesimus shows me the huge importance of living a life with forgiveness in your heart. Get this! This epistle was being sent by Paul and Onesimus was the one delivering it!! The above story at the first of this blog shows that forgiveness is something that must be complete to allow us to go on with our lives and the freedom it gives shakes us to our core. Because it is at our core is where love’s fountain must flow to permeate every area of our life. Our words, our actions, our hopes, our dreams, our relationships, everything. When growing up as an eleven years old boy a group of people reached out to me and led me to Christ. My mother accepted Christ at the same time and this began a journey for me dealing with a father who was super skeptical about the Christian faith and actually told me he was disappointed that I had ever gotten involved in the whole “Christian thing.” That was soured even more when I surrendered to the Gospel Ministry full time and started the journey I am still on today. I harbored unforgiveness toward my dad for quite a few years because I knew he wasn’t proud of me for the steps I had taken. It was ironic. The very thing I was preaching was something I was having trouble doing. I preached about God’s forgiveness and all it entails, but yet I had unforgiveness and hurt in my heart toward my father. Our course, my heavenly Father showed me just how wrong I was and I had a “come to Jesus” meeting with him about this very issue, and I changed my attitude about the whole thing by forgiving my father for not supporting me. I cannot express in words the freedom I felt when this happened. I didn’t go on TBN and tell them all my dirty laundry and make a big thing about it. I just forgave and that was it. It was a conversation between me and my heavenly daddy about my earthly daddy and then it was over. I will say the sunshine was a little brighter after that exchange and my heart was refreshed. Paul in Philemon verse 20 says, “Yes, brother, let me benefit from you in the Lord; refresh my heart in Christ.” It was going to be refreshing for Paul’s heart to see that Philemon would offer his forgiveness to the new convert Onesimus. Paul would just get to watch the forgiveness and it would refresh his heart.
So…. Forgiveness is not just something we get when we accept Christ. Forgiveness is “who we become.” We become forgiveness and take on the very essence of forgiveness in our life as believers. It changes us to our core.
That is why we must share our testimony of God’s forgiveness through Jesus with others who are living without that forgiveness. We are compelled by God’s great forgiveness to experience it and live it every day. Here is some scriptural background for this very point
Matthew 6:12 (Lord’s prayer)
Luke 6:37 – Forgive and you will be forgiven
Luke 7:47 – whoever has been forgiven little loves little
John 20:23 – If you forgive anyone’s sins, their sins are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven
Forgiveness that is real shakes our very core and our lives are forever impacted by that forgiveness because we own it and must be forgiving agents of grace. Read Philemon and see just what I am writing about and it will impact how you look at others and their problems. Praise God for His great forgiveness. May I become a person of forgiveness myself. May you realize today the power of forgiveness. It will change your life!!
The Pilgrimage continues…